Hurricane Henri didn’t hit Queens especially hard, and for many it seemed like just another storm.
For the residents of East Flushing, however, Henri left behind a something to remember him by: a giant puddle that took days to evaporate, even in the wake of a heat wave.
Ponding on the corner of Burling Street and Negundo Avenue is a frequent occurrence, Winnie Cao said. Pools of rainwater have been left behind after every rainfall, whether the storm was light or heavy, in the 20 years she has lived on the block.
“It smells horrible ... It’s bad. It’s really, really bad,” said Cao. “It’s always there. This summer it has been really horrible because we had a lot of rain.”
The homeowner said the puddles attract mosquitoes in the summer, and are dangerously slippery in the winter.
Over the last two decades, Cao has made numerous complaints to 311, but the puddles have remained. Cao speaks English as a second language and worries that the problem hasn’t been fixed because she can’t figure out what the next steps should be. She turned to City Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Flushing) for help, but the official struggled to see the problem addressed as well.
“Unfortunately, this is another classic case of city agency finger pointing where no one wants to take responsibility for the problem at hand,” Scott Sieber, Koo’s spokesperson, told the Chronicle in an email. “We need the [Department of Transportation] and [Department of Environmental Protection] to work together to come up with a solution for this location so the perpetual ponding can finally be resolved.”
The DEP told Koo’s office that the ponding is caused by rain and uneven street conditions, and that there is no catch basin at the corner. The agency referred them to the DOT, which claimed it wasn’t in its jurisdiction.
In regard to an inquiry, the DOT referred the Chronicle to the DEP, which said it is in the process of installing several curbside rain gardens in the area that will intercept stormwater and absorb it naturally into the ground.
“DEP will also investigate further drainage options, including construction of new catch basins, at this particular intersection,” a spokesperson said in an email, adding that the rain gardens will likely be planted at the end of September.
Beverly McDermott, president of the Kissena Park Civic Association and East Flushing resident of 76 years, laughed when she heard of the DEP’s rain garden solution.
“It’s a total waste of money. I’ve never seen one, or spoken to someone who said, ‘This is a wonderful thing that happened,’” McDermott said. “Instead, there’s garbage collecting and weeds growing in there and it’s the perfect home for mosquitoes.”
McDermott said the Burling Street and Negundo Avenue ponding has been an issue for as long as she could remember and preceded Cao’s experience by at least 30 years. The real solution, she said, is to re-pave the road and fix an ancient sewer system.
“I’ve lived here for 76 years and they have never ever tried to correct it,” McDermott said. “It’s a dangerous corner. Icy in winter and wet and nasty whenever it rains.”